Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) delivered the Republican response to Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday night, accusing the president of pushing an extreme agenda that was "pro-poverty." Picking up on many of the themes sounded by the GOP presidential candidates on the campaign trail, Daniels criticized Obama for calling on the wealthiest Americans to pay higher taxes, saying it was doing nothing but "divide" America and stifle economic growth.
Daniels pointed to Obama's "grand experiment in trickle-down government" that has "held back rather than sped economic recovery" and his record in putting America on a course to make the federal debt "radically worse in the years ahead."
"No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others," said Daniels. "As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat. If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have."
Obama actually used very similar language in his State of the Union address, also saying that Americans sank or swam as one.
"Those of us who've been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops," he said. "When you put on that uniform, it doesn't matter if you're black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you're marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you're in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind."
Obama made clear that he placed part of the blame for America's lack of progress at the doorstep of Congress, saying, "Some of what's broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days."
Daniels took exception with these remarks in his speech.
"It's not fair and it's not true for the President to attack Republicans in Congress as obstacles on these questions," he said. "They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements, and encourage new job creation, only to be shot down nearly time and again by the President and his Democrat Senate allies."
One of the most biting lines in the speech came when Daniels accused the president of promoting policies that keep America in poverty -- not that far off from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's controversial remarks that Obama is a "food stamp president."
"The extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands, or jacks up consumer utility bills for no improvement in either human health or world temperature, is a pro-poverty policy," he said. "It must be replaced by a passionate pro-growth approach that breaks all ties and calls all close ones in favor of private sector jobs that restore opportunity for all and generate the public revenues to pay our bills."
Daniels also defended the enterprise of business, calling it "one of the noblest of human pursuits" -- a line that wouldn't be out of place at a presidential rally for Mitt Romney.
"The late Steve Jobs -- what a fitting name he had -- created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the president borrowed and blew," he said. "Out here in Indiana, when a businessperson asks me what he can do for our state, I say 'First, make money. Be successful. If you make a profit, you'll have something left to hire someone else, and some to donate to the good causes we love.'"
Daniels, who entered office in 2005 and is in the final year of his last term as governor, is a popular figure in the Republican Party. Despite the wishes of many, Daniels announced last May that he would not run for president in 2012. "In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one," he said in an email to supporters. "The interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all. If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry."